Walk - Bay Esplanade Hotel - Paignton to Brixham
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the Esplanade Hotel cross the road at the roundabout onto the seafront. Turn right to join the South West Coast Path as it makes its way towards the harbour.
Paignton Harbour, as it is today, was created in 1838 when a more efficient landing place was required to take out the two important exports of the area - cider and giant pole cabbages. Today a crab processing plant provides employment and a popular food for local hotels and restaurants whilst the leisure boats ply their trade with visitors.
At the top of the slope leading up to the road, the small whitewashed building overlooking the harbour, now the public toilets, used to be 'The Preventatives Station'. The preventatives, or coastguards, had the unenviable job of trying to apprehend the smugglers who were so numerous along this coast during the 18th and 19th centuries. Large quantities of contraband were landed on Paignton beach and much of the time the preventatives sensibly turned a blind eye!
- To access Roundham Head from the harbour there is a choice of routes. The paved route is via Cliff Road whilst another more difficult but interesting approach is along the South Quay and across Fairy Cove, climbing up the steps to join Cliff Road.
Below the footpath on the initial section are rocks known as the Paignton Ledges. Here in February 1804 a warship named Venerable was shipwrecked. Luckily out of a crew of 555 men only 3 lost their lives.
As the route rounds the head itself, Goodrington Beach comes into sight. There are a variety of zig zag paths all over the reddish cliffs.
This Rock Walk, floodlit at night, and the promenade were constructed in 2 years from 1929. The work was carried out by Welsh miners as part of a work creation scheme during the Great Depression. Some of the semi-tropical plants that were supplied at the time by Herbert Whitley of Paignton Zoo, still survive today.
- Make your way down one of them onto the promenade path of Goodrington North Sands. A small rocky area known as Middle Stone divides Goodrington North from South.
Goodrington Sands is a safe sandy award winning family beach, unique in Torbay in that at high tide there is still quite a lot of beach left to sit on at the southern end of the beach.
- Follow the path past amusements, Quaywest, shops, toilets and the South Sands Café until you cross under the railway line. The Coast Path winds its way between the railway line and houses and mobile homes.
The South Devon Railway was extended from Paignton to Kingswear in 1864. The Dart Valley Railway acquired the line in 1973 after the line was threatened with closure.
At Saltern Cove there is an old stone bridge over the railway line onto the grassy headland. Saltern Cove is a site of special scientific interest and a local nature reserve. It is unique in Britain as the Reserve extends underwater to a point 376 metres below low water mark. The high number of tourists in the immediate area of Goodrington and Broadsands has caused diversity of species on the rocky foreshore of Saltern Cove to sadly diminish over the past 25 years.
Recross the bridge and turn left to continue this walk. Some concrete steps lead down to the end of Broadsands Park Road.
- Turn left as the Coast Path crosses under the impressive Broadsands railway viaduct. Follow the coast path around Broadsands Beach, a sandy cove with a long line of beach huts. The path continues at a fairly low-level around Churston Point to come out onto Elberry Cove.
Here a crescent strand of bleached pebble provides a sheltered spot where Lord Churston created a 19th century sea-water bathing house, today a rather romantic ruin overlooking water-skiing and bathing activities. Elberry Cove was said to be a favourite bathing site for Agatha Christie, the crime novelist. Local settings were used in many of her books including The ABC Murders where detective Hercule Poirot alights at Churston Station to investigate a murder at Elberry Cove.
- From Elberry Cove the path climbs fairly steeply away from the beach and passing along a woodland fringe with glimpses of the sea for the next half-mile. On your right is Churston Golf Course.
This 18 hole course, known as one of Devon’s best kept secrets was opened in 1890 on land provided by Lord Churston. The sycamore trees, predominant in this area, are salt resistant and provide a protective barrier for the other trees.
- Descend down steps by Fishcombe Point to Churston Cove.
At the Cove, a picturesque and unspoiled inlet with a shingle beach, it is hard to believe you are at the entrance to Brixham outer harbour.
Follow the Coast Path through The Grove, an ancient, semi-natural woodland.
- Coming out onto a tarmac path turn left to follow the coast path around the headland, through Battery Gardens and along to Brixham Harbour.
Here is the centre of the coastal fishing port. The original town was based further inland, and even the harbour was inland of where it now is. The old harbour has now been built over and is occupied by the modern car park and bus station area. The 1801 Census revealed Brixham to be the largest town in Torbay with a population of 3,500. Paignton population was 1,575 and Torquay a mere 838. In the 2011 Census Brixham had a population of 16,693, Paignton 49,021 and Torquay 65,245!
Close to the Tourist Information Centre and the replica of the Golden Hind on the Strand stands the statue of William of Orange. The statue was erected in Victorian times. It commemorates the landing at Brixham in 1688 of William of Orange, King William III, together with his wife Mary, the daughter of the deposed King James II, on his way to London to take the throne.
Buses return from the town square in Brixham -a little back from the harbour- to Paignton taking about 20 minutes. Get off at Dartmouth Road from where there is a short 5 minute walk back to the Esplanade Hotel.
In Goodrington and Brixham.